A well-meaning book is dragged down by its sad-sack hero.

TOAD HAS TALENT

Ah, talent shows. Dancing, acrobatics, contortion—the sky’s the limit. Just add a frozen pond on a moonlit winter’s night, and there are the makings of an extravaganza extraordinaire.

The excitement is enough to encourage even normally hibernating forest critters to brave a little frostbite for the sake of the spectacle. However, Toad (who looks a great deal like a frog) is sure he is talentless and says so, over and over. The self-deprecating, lugubrious laments grow old quickly. “It’s best if I keep myself out of sight,” he sighs. “The others must think I am silly and useless.” And that is just the first lamentation. To make matters worse, the caliber of performances playing out on the ice only serves to reinforce Toad’s extreme lack of self-esteem. As the competition draws to an end, an observant snail announces—much to Toad’s chagrin—that the ambivalent amphibian has yet to compete. Intending to demur, he emerges from the shadows and…Slips! Slides! Glides! No one has ever beheld an ice-skating toad before. Amid the uproarious cheers, he’s named the winner. Smythe’s digitized watercolor illustrations are the indisputable stars here, as the talented sylvan insomniacs erupt from lively, purple-hued pages. Despite his accidental success (he really has no talent), the rallying cry of “You never know what you can do until you try!” is a message timid souls everywhere can embrace.

A well-meaning book is dragged down by its sad-sack hero. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78603-011-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

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THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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